In the mind of many folks 2020 was not a good year. With COVID ravaging the world many lost loved ones, while others lost their jobs and businesses. Musical, sporting, and other social events were canceled, and much of the world spent much of the year at home feeling trapped and perhaps alone, while social and political unrest divided the country. Thanksgiving and Christmas became much smaller gatherings this year. Still there was much to be thankful for.
One of the bright notes in 2020 it may have been that more people got outside. They hit their local parks and trails. Some outdoor gear became very hard to get as a result. I began volunteering at my local state park in 2020. For me, 2020 was another very good year when it came to backpacking and visiting national parks as well, though getting there would prove to be challenging.
I visited nine national parks in 2020, seven of them new ones. I also managed five backpacking trips and slept on the ground in four new states: Minnesota, Wyoming, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. This is a new goal – to sleep on the ground in every US state. We’ll call it the SOG Countdown for short.
2020 By the Numbers
Miles flown: 10,112
Miles driven: 9,174
Miles sailed: 21
Hardest to reach: This year the hardest to reach award goes to Voyageurs. This required flying to Minneapolis, then driving four hours to the park, then catching a 30 minute water taxi to our trailhead. Timing was critical, especially on the way out when we had to hike to the trailhead in the wee hours to meet that water taxi at the trailhead and do everything in reverse to catch our flight while managing to find a shower in there.
Runner up: Great Basin. This trip including flying to Salt Lake City, then driving four hours to the middle of nowhere.
Longest drive: 2020 involved more driving and less flying due to social distancing. Congaree and Hot Springs take the prize for the farthest drive to a national park in 2020. The Congaree trip was more miles one way (843 vs. 780), but only because of the route I took. Had I taken a direct driving route, Hot Springs would have been farther (780 vs. 712).
Runner up: Were it a national park, my recent trip to the Ouachita Trail in the Tonto National Forest of Oklahoma would have nabbed the trophy with a 859 mile drive.
Easiest to reach: Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’ve been to this park many times because I have relatives that live just outside the park. This was a 10 1/2 hour drive, mostly on interstates. It could be less if I entered from the north but I enter from the south side. The remaining parks on my to-do list will not be easy to get to.
Runner up: Grand Tetons National Park. If you fly into Jackson hole airport, then Grand Tetons National Park is within view when you land.
The National Park Countdown: 38 down, 24 to go.
The SOG Countdown: 15 down, 35 to go.
Next up: Theodore Roosevelt National Park in May, though I may try to slip in another one before then.
2020 Photo Calendar